Football: Chelsea seize the moment: Leeds self-destruct

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The Independent Online
Leeds United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Chelsea . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

THE RESULT was a tribute to Chelsea's resilience, but the issue was the 38th-minute penalty awarded against Carlton Palmer which was probably the fulcrum of the match. John Spencer, Chelsea's two-goal match-winner, appeared only to get tangled up in Palmer's legs, which is not difficult. But, positioned behind the attacker, the referee Gerald Ashby saw a foul and Dennis Wise seized the opportunity to trim back United's two-goal lead.

Afterwards at the press conference, Howard Wilkinson came over all inhibited. 'Ask George Courtney, he's the observer,' the Leeds manager said. 'Managers don't have views on penalties.'

Courtney was there as one of the super-assessors detailed to attend every Premiership game this season; to look and report but not to comment. Attending the immediate post mortem is part of a wider brief, taking in the performance of the officials, security in the stadium and the conduct of the players. Relaying managers' comments is at the observer's discretion, but Wilkinson was taking no chances.

Glenn Hoddle did have a view and, as might be expected, put it subtly. 'Under the old laws I would say it had been a very harsh decision,' he said. 'Last season it would not have been a penalty.'

At least Palmer himself, unobserved, came straight to the point. 'It was a diabolical decision,' the midfielder turned centre-back said. 'I never touched him.'

Unjust or not, the moment turned the tide. Chelsea, beaten 4-1 in this match last season, discovered self-belief and reached half- time one goal adrift when it might have been three. Spencer snatched the equalizer when John Lukic could not hold Wise's quickly taken free-kick, then poked a late winner through the Leeds goalkeeper's legs.

Leeds looked bemused, as well they might. After Philomen Masinga, their new South African striker, had headed his first Premiership goal and Noel Whelan had hooked in a second, they probably expected another rout.

Goals: Masinga (4) 1-0; Whelan (19) 2-0; Wise pen (38) 2-1; Spencer (61) 2-2; Spencer (88) 2-3.

Leeds United (4-4-2): Lukic; Kelly, Palmer, Wetherall, Worthington; White, Speed, McAllister, Wallace; Masinga, Whelan. Substitutes (not used): Pemberton, Tinkler, Beeney (gk).

Chelsea (4-1-3-2): Kharin; Clarke, Kjeldbjerg, Johnsen, Sinclair; Spackman; Rocastle (Newton, 83), Peacock, Wise; Thurlong, Spencer. Substitutes (not used): Hoddle, Hitchcock (gk).

Referee: (G Ashby) Worcester.